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Two die after boat capsizes during sailing race

July 18, 2011 | 10:58 am

A pair of boaters participating in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac sailing race died Monday after their sailboat capsized during a severe thunderstorm, race officials said.

A dive team recovered the bodies of 51-year-old skipper Mark Morley and 41-year-old Suzanne Bickel, both of Saginaw, Mich.,from northern Lake Michigan about eight hours after their 35-foot boat, WingNuts, was reported to have capsized near the Fox Islands, west of Charlevoix. Six other crew members, including two teenage boys, were rescued.

"They were ready for the storm, they had their sails down," said Gifford Cummings, whose 16-year-old son Christopher was rescued. "But the wind suddenly whipped up from 5 knots to about 40 knots. The wind caught one of the hulls and flipped it right over."

Morley had sailed for 44 years and had taken part in six Chicago Mackinac races and 85 qualifying races, according to the Chicago Yacht Club, which sponsors the race. Bickel had sailed in two previous Mackinac races and 16 qualifying races.

Officials could not recall any previous drowning deaths during past races.

The Chicago Tribune has a full report.


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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: The sailboat WingNuts in 2010. Credit: Randall Goss / Associated Press